Monday 22 December 2014

Am I a Good Man? A look back at Doctor Who Series 8

Generation Star Wars' John Hood and Taking The Short View's Andrew Lewin look back over the latest series of Doctor Who and come to a shocking verdict...

Before it started to air, Steven Moffat promised that series 8 of Doctor Who would be completely unlike anything we'd seen before - and he wasn't joking. Peter Capaldi's mysterious, unpredictable and at times downright unlikeable portrayal of the titular Time Lord at times evoked Colin Baker's tenure as the Sixth Doctor. While he didn't actually try to throttle his companion this time around, the latest Doctor certainly threw enough caustic barbs at Clara Oswald to provoke some of the most memorably heated confrontations between the show's stars that we've ever seen in 51 years of the programme's history, while at the same time in Danny Pink's character arc there was a hint of the redemption found by mercenary Lytton in 1985's über-violent "Attack of the Cybermen". The eighth series certainly proved full of dark themes, challenging subjects, black humour and genuinely frightening horror to an extent that the series has never before attempted, but it also aspired to moments of pure visual poetry and took time to indulge in the silliest of comedy romps along the way. No wonder that Capaldi's first year in charge of the TARDIS has proved almost as divisive and controversial as Baker's did in its day.

With a few weeks now elapsed since the shattering climax, and just before we board the TARDIS once again for the 2014 Christmas special, John and Andrew compare notes about each episode of series 8 in turn with the benefit of distance and hindsight, and then gird themselves to debate the big question of the year: was it a triumphant hit or a disastrous miss? You might be shocked by how it all turns out...


Episode 1: "Deep Breath"

John: An allegory for life post head trauma and a theme also explored in the excellent second series of "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." too. A regenerated, and bedridden, Doctor evoked memories of my own paralysis post-childhood head trauma. Awaking from several weeks in a coma and laying on a hospital bed, unable to move or communicate, but fully conscious of those around me and wanting to communicate to them. With a shaved head and savage surgical scars (worthy of Frankenstein's Monster), I was unrecognisable to family and primary school friends (it was too much for them to bare). I'd undergone my very own regeneration albeit in the wake of a primary school classroom head injury that had gone unreported. To complete the transformation; my once blonde hair, grew back brunette… Thank goodness for loving parents, wonderful doctors, nurses, Doctor Who and The Six Million Dollar Man with whom I now felt an empathy: we'd both been changed by serious injuries.

Andrew: Small wonder that this episode means so much to you in those circumstances. I certainly agree that the parts of "Deep Breath" that work the best are those that bring to life the Doctor's struggles with his regeneration - the process has never felt so real, visceral and completely authentic as it does here where it really does seem to have shattered his psyche and his confidence, and left him genuinely struggling for a sense of self. Beyond the regeneration trauma, there's also the brilliantly memorable scene in Mancini's, Clara's stand-out moment when she's abandoned in the Half-Face Man's underground lair, and some welcome comic relief from the Paternoster Gang. I'm less enamoured with other aspects of the season premiere though: for one thing it felt very messy, seemingly built up from loads of leftovers which didn't really fit together too well. It also felt rather jerky in terms of pacing, and I was irked by how a major plot point (the advert in the paper) went unexplained until "Death in Heaven" - and arguably it still didn't really make sense even then. In fact the big thing looking back at the episode is how the coda where Half Face Man meets Missy doesn't really fit in with what we later find out about the Nethersphere's purpose (what's the point of storing a clockwork man in order to make a Cyberman?) And of course, the "Did he jump or was he pushed?" question which felt so crucial at the time was never mentioned again. It all seemed much less polished than Steven Moffat's usual efforts and feels rather untidy, slightly frustrating and less fulfilling than, say, Matt Smith's thrilling début in the excellent "The Eleventh Hour".

John: Yes, the Half Face Man was an interesting character who was left dangling in cyberspace. Forgotten.

Episode 2: "Into the Dalek"

Andrew: I remembered liking this a lot at the time, but as it came so early in the season it was the episode that I went back and rewatched in order to refresh my memory of it when I got the Blu-ray set. Would it live up to what I remembered? The answer is an emphatic yes, and in fact it was even better than I'd hoped. Right from the Battlestar Galactica-inspired space conflict sequence in the teaser, it was all just a great, fun, flat-out adventure - the kind of thing that Doctor Who has been a little lax in doing of late. It's one of the best Dalek stories in years (although admittedly that's not saying a huge amount) and really made effective use of the metal menaces both en masse as an invading, exterminating army and also on a single character level courtesy of Rusty. Plus, it continued the great terrific character development work for the Doctor and Clara that had begun in "Deep Breath", and added a number of genuinely interesting and sympathetic supporting guest characters. Added to that are some really great visual flourishes from director Ben Wheatley, while also of note is the top-notch sound design - perhaps more noticeable on the Blu-ray than it had been on its original broadcast, but really lively and active throughout. So what if it is riffing on Fantastic Voyage, this is the kind of entertaining yet intelligently layered sort of episode that Doctor Who can do better than anyone out there. There are flaws, yes (Clara spontaneously figuring out how to rewire a Dalek for example) but these are minor beats compared with the sort of plot glitches that occur routinely in most other episodes. All in all, fabulous stuff.

John: A reprise of series 1's acclaimed "Dalek" episode, in which the Doctor is portrayed as much a villain as his most feared enemies, and borrows heavily from Fantastic Voyage. One of the better Dalek stories in recent years. I would have welcomed Davros' surprise return. A Capaldi/Bleach face-off would make for compelling viewing.

Andrew: Indeed, I remember you were convinced Davros would return because of the voiceover on one of the pre-season trailers - which did sound incredibly like him, I grant you. On the whole I'm glad that the Daleks can appear without having to drag Davros along at every opportunity (as happened with every classic Dalek story post-"Genesis") but have to agree that a Capaldi/Bleach confrontation would be most welcome in 2015.

John: Davros was overexposed.

Episode 3: "Robot of Sherwood"

John: I was immediately reminded of "The Androids of Tara" from "The Key to Time" season, but this retelling of Robin Hood was deliriously daft and all the better for it. At any moment I was hoping Brian Blessed would appear to upstage Capaldi in this throw-back to Saturday morning serials, which inspired the films of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. I was barely able to breath seeing Clara in full Maid Marion regalia. To quote the Doctor: “Shut it, Hoody, you long-haired ninny”. How very meta.

Andrew: I shall endeavour to use "Shut up Hoody" in all our future collaborations in that case! I'm genuinely pleased you enjoyed "Robot of Sherwood" so much, but I have to confess that I really didn't; well, Clara in Maid Marion attire aside. But otherwise I really hated the campy, kitsch feel to the whole thing - what's next, the Doctor teams up with Adam West in 1960s Gotham? And it just felt so out of kilter with the tone of the rest of the season - it's as if Moffat never got around to briefing Mark Gatiss on the new direction that he was going with this series; or perhaps Gatiss simply wrote the episode for Matt Smith and never had a chance to properly go back and rewrite it after the casting change. Even the bits that I liked - the dungeon scene for example - felt more like Smith material than Capaldi. And I'm still boggled by how this has a main story about a collection of robots from the future who have crash-landed on Earth and are scavenging for spare parts to repair their spaceship so that they can get home, which is exactly the story for "Deep Breath" just two weeks earlier. I thought at the time it must be a link to the series' main overarching plot line, but it turned out that it wasn't - just a coincidence, apparently. A sloppy one.

John: You had me at Adam West!

Episode 4: "Listen"

Andrew: For my money Doctor Who is at its best when it's at its scariest, from the Daleks through to the horror-influenced stories of the mid-70s under producer Philip Hinchcliffe. The latter tended to riff on Hammer House of Horror ground, whereas "Listen" goes instead for the more thoughtful psychological terror of an MR James ghost story, but it absolutely still holds true that the scarier the story the better the episode. This is a fabulous and original instalment, and one that actually gets better with repeated viewings where you notice more and more clever things hidden away in plain sight in the early parts that you only pick up on later having seen where it all goes. Requiring that sort of complete attention didn't make it all that popular with the casual Saturday night viewers on the original airing, but does make it one of the most rewatchable episodes of recent years on DVD or Blu-ray. It's not quite up there with the likes of "Blink" perhaps but it's pretty damn close. What's even better is how much insight it gives into each of this season's three main characters, which means it's also immensely satisfying from a drama point of view rather than just delivering the shocks. And the message that fear is to be embraced as the thing which makes us most human and which gives us our 'super power' to achieve great things is I think one of the most inspiring messages the show has ever delivered. Superb.

John: Agreed. My earliest memories of Doctor Who are being terrified of the opening and closing titles from the Tom Baker era, but the allure of travelling down the time corridor was too great. Being sat on dad's lap did help, otherwise I would literally hide behind the sofa peeking out to spy if an angry Dalek had entered the room or if an Egyptian Mummy was wandering the corridors and gardens of my parents home.

During childhood I never endured under-the-bed scares as my divan always contained drawers! However, we all have our own childhood traumas that cast long shadows into adulthood and the Doctor, like any flawed hero, rich in contradictions, is no exception. "Listen" is perhaps one of Steven Moffat's most deeply affecting episodes of Doctor Who to date and the realisation of themes begun in series 1. It's arguably the equal of "The Girl in the Fireplace", "Blink" and "The Girl Who Waited." Jenna Coleman delivers an acting tour de force. I've watched this episode more than once.

Andrew: I don't recall ever being truly scared as a child by anything on TV to be honest, and sadly never once had the dream about a hand reaching out from under the bed. I'd add Russell T Davies' "Midnight" to your list of similarly impressive stories from the series.

John: The perils of living with a life-changing trauma and overactive imagination, which has never abated.

Episode 5: "Time Heist"

John: Loved the twist in this tale, which was a refreshing change of direction from the usual monster of the week - that's in no way a criticism of the format in this (or any) drama series. A great ensemble of supporting characters, I could happily watch week in, week out. The Doctor's very own Scooby Gang in homage to my beloved Buffy. Buffy…

Andrew: I really liked this one too. Rather like "Into the Dalek" it was a nice, simple, straightforward adventure story that was just a lot of fun. Hard to believe that Doctor Who has never done a heist story before, it seems so obvious - as all great ideas do in hindsight. A terrific set-up with as you say some really likeable supporting characters that I wouldn't mind seeing again, and just enough timey-wimey-ness to make this feel like a proper Doctor Who episode without making it feel overly convoluted. I just wish there had been more to the break-in itself - it could have gone for a really effective Mission: Impossible feel but seemed to run out of ideas far too quickly, leaving instead a lot of wandering down empty corridors and oversized ventilation ducts - hardly the super-impregnable bank we were told to expect. The episode ended up lacking a big feel to it, leaving this as an entirely enjoyable but to be honest probably only middle-of-the-road outing.

Episode 6: "The Caretaker"

Andrew: It's the best of the 'Doctor-as-fish-out-of-water-in-domestic-setting' sitcoms that Gareth Roberts has contributed to the show in recent years, but that isn't saying all that much as I never really liked "The Lodger" and "Closing Time" as much as other people tend to - I guess that's my inner curmudgeon coming out again just as it did with "Robot of Sherwood". Having said that, I did enjoy "The Caretaker" more than I expected to - the comedy was well done, and having a fiercer central presence in Peter Capaldi as opposed to Matt Smith (whose natural inclination was always to clown around) gives this a bit more impact than its predecessors. It's good that it gives the recurring characters some room to develop and grow together having previously been kept separate, and the vicious confrontation between the Doctor and Danny is incredibly powerful. Around that, I just wish there had been more of a plot: the Skovox Blitzer makes little impression and there's more time given to planning the parent/teachers evening then there is to the Doctor's efforts to do anything about a death machine rattling around Shoreditch blowing things up. Still, better than bringing in the Cybermen and having them defeated by James Corden blubbing over them I suppose… On the whole though it felt like we'd wandered into a very weird episode of Grange Hill, and while that idea is by no means altogether unpleasant it also didn't quite feel like a nutritious full course Doctor Who meal either. Ultimately, it's simply not one that I'm going to revisit all that often.

John: Evoked fond memories of The Sarah Jane Adventures. A series much missed since the passing of Lis Sladen. An actress so beloved by fandom as a whole. That said, I don't feel any impetus to revisit anytime soon.

Episode 7: "Kill the Moon"

John: Doctor Who can work wonderfully as fable and this is an endearing example. What begins as a moon base under siege, a theme reprised throughout the series' hallowed history, develops into an entirely different beast. Literally!

Andrew: I was really impressed by "Kill The Moon" at the time - the Alien-esque sequences with the giant spiders were fabulously creepy, the depiction of the lunar landscape strikingly effective, Hermione Norris fabulous as always, and the dilemma about what to do about the unfolding situation a genuinely interesting and absorbing one. Unfortunately, time and distance have left me increasingly dissatisfied with the episode because of its spectacularly careless approach to the science. For sure, classic Doctor Who was often on similarly shaky ground when it came to science (Terry Nation never did get the hang of cosmology, and David Whittaker's misunderstanding of how radiation worked was hilarious) but I've never seen an episode that got so much important stuff so badly wrong, even things that should have been picked up by a basic error-check - the moon's age implied at one hundred million years instead of the actual four billion, for example. The big idea of Earth voting by turning its lights out also makes no sense (only a small sliver of the population could vote as the rest were either in daylight or asleep or on the wrong side of the planet.) Since the mystery depended on the Doctor decoding the scientific clues - which actually made absolutely no sense - it all left a terrible flaw in an episode I really, really wanted to love.

John: There's nothing wrong with a flawed masterpiece.

Andrew: Mmmm.

Episode 8: "Mummy on the Orient Express"

Andrew: Another really good episode, although a little patchy. The sequences with the Mummy itself were brilliantly effective, despite (or perhaps because of?) the repetition of the countdown to each death, and the denouement delivered really good character development for both the Doctor and Clara despite this being a 'companion-lite' episode if you looked closely. However the episode never really managed to make fully effective use of its 'spacetrain' setting which was a shame and it could also have done more with the Egyptian theme as well, but instead opted to bolt on what proved to be a wholly unnecessary final act involving 'Gus' and some unexplained/unresolved master plan behind the events which could easily have been dropped altogether to allow for more time on the main plot rather than making it all feel too rushed. I still enjoyed the episode, but a little more self-restraint and firmer focus on the core elements would have made it so much better.

John: For reasons unknown, I tuned out during this episode much to the dismay of fellow Whovians eager to see whether or not I compared this favourably to the Fourth Doctor's "Pyramids of Mars". Can't add more than that.

Andrew: Perhaps this is the one we need to tempt you back into spending some time rewatching over Christmas? Just to be sure!

Episode 9: "Flatline"

John: The tone of this episode compared favourably with The Walking Dead episode "Us" from series 4! Genuinely chilling, and again Clara was front and centre. Of course this has been a bugbear for some fans this season, many of whom have acted as self-appointed spokespeople for the community at large. To invoke Taylor Swift: "Shake It Off…"

Andrew: What, there were people who didn't like "Flatline"? I find that impossible to countenance, I really do. I thought this was a fabulous episode, a true Doctor Who classic episode, one that combines an incredibly intelligent and well developed high concept SF idea with some stunning and unique visuals along with some genuine chills and several laugh out loud moments - especially the Doctor invoking Thing from The Addams Family to get the TARDIS out of danger which has to be my favourite moment of the entire season. "Flatline" even manages some major character development for both the stars, which is especially impressive given that it was the 'Doctor-lite' instalment. That it managed all this in a script that managed to hit its 42 minute running time spot on without feeling either too rushed or drawn out at any point is especially impressive and singles out Jamie Mathieson (who also contributed "Mummy") as the writer of the season as far as I'm concerned.

John: I meant the constant stream of moaning about Clara! That she should leave because she's (almost) the longest running companion of the current series, which is the most tenuous of arguments. A character should depart when it serves the dramatic impetus of a series (or an actor's real life commitments) and not satiating the fragile whims of fans.

Andrew: Agreed. I have nothing but good to say about Jenna Coleman, she's been excellent throughout. As for her needing to leave because she's nearly the longest running companion since the reboot - well, phooey. I'm completely with you on that score. In fact it feels to me that we're only just starting to get to know her and there's plenty more to come. After all, Amy was around for two and a half seasons while Clara is only at one and a half: another season with her on board is more than entirely justified.

Episode 10: "In the Forest of the Night"

Andrew: I'm afraid for me this was the second dud of the season, after "Robot of Sherwood" - and that's such a shame as it could have been wonderful. You mentioned 'fable' when referring to "Kill The Moon" but for me that's a tag far better applied to this episode. Because it has more of a fantasy/fairytale feel to it I'm willing to extend it a lot more latitude to its scientific waywardness than I was to that previous story which so wanted to be serious high-concept science fiction but missed the mark badly. "In The Forest Of The Night" was actually quite charming for the first half - the imagery of the overgrown London was wonderful, and having some time to wander around and explore was much appreciated. But then it turned out that the story had nothing to do or say, except for a few 1960s eco platitudes, and the Doctor himself was superfluous to requirements which meant that the whole thing deflated like an overcooked soufflé. The idea that the Doctor would simply up and leave - and moreover, that Clara would turn down the chance to save the kids and Danny - all rang horribly false, so it even failed rather badly on the character development front.

John: I confess to missing this episode for no better reason than catching up with Arrow and The Flash.

Andrew: You missed an episode of Doctor Who? I'm speechless, I really am. Please hand in your Whovian credentials at the door on your way out.

John: I'll delete all reference to Doctor Who in my social media bio post haste. But, seriously, my Humax Freesat+ box decided to fail (after 6 years of stoic service) and I didn't get around to catching up on BBC iPlayer. Plus I got distracted with playing Destiny on PS4 (ironically with Doctor Who production staff).

Episode 11: "Dark Water"

John: The look of the Cybermen, in the current run, still bothers me! They're the illegitimate spawn of Metal Mickey and Metropolis' Maria. Seeming on the verge of a dance number inspired by Janet Jackson's excellent "Rhythm Nation" pop promo from 1989. That gripe aside; an excellent episode in which Missy's (arguably unsurprising) identity is revealed.

Andrew: I have no problem with the current look of the Cybermen, although I do wish they'd kept some of the more effective upgrades that Neil Gaiman bestowed upon them in "Nightmare in Silver." Instead they seemed back to their old, stomping-about selves in this one although the Iron Man-esque air thrusters were a long overdue addition. Considering that their appearance here wasn't a surprise (the secret simply couldn't be kept once they needed location filming outside St Paul's) I thought the episode got huge mileage out of 'teasing' their presence in multiple ways through the set design and music cues. I guessed that it was the Cybermen in the Telos tomb-like water tanks the minute they appeared, but the way they were then slowly revealed in back of shot as the water drained out was a masterstroke by director Rachel Talalay. Talking of masterstrokes, the widely-expected reveal of Missy's identity initially underwhelmed me but I was quickly won over by the writing and by Michelle Gomez's dazzling portrayal - I look forward to her rapid return. Overall my one reservation about the otherwise excellent slow-burn episode was the idea that the dead can 'feel' what happens to their bodies after death which I think is just too genuinely horrific and emotionally upsetting for a general audience, and insufficiently refuted by the writing later in the story. It still bothers me.

John: Yes, a chilling and misguided move by the writer. A macabre narrative twist better suited to The Walking Dead than the adventures of our good Doctor. Had I watched the episode in children's hospital…

Episode 12: "Death in Heaven"

Andrew: Probably the most traditional season finale Steven Moffat has ever written for the series, although the dark and morbid feel to the whole endeavour still means it's light years away from the huge, fun and cathartic climactic romps that Russell T Davies specialised in. I think Moffat was trying to do and say and awful lot of important things here (when is that ever not true of Moffat?) but he doesn't quite knit all the different strands into one compelling narrative as successfully as he needed to in order to make this episode entirely fulfilling. There's the Cybermen, UNIT, the Master, Clara, Danny's fate, resolving the series arc and more besides and they all feel like they're fighting for individual attention rather than working in harmony toward a single resolution. You could pick on any single element (I'll go for Missy, who is ultimately dispatched with almost obscene haste) and say that a lot more time needed to be spent on it. All that said, the episode does the job and wraps up the season pretty well, and also manages to sidestep around almost all of the potentially disastrous potholes that would have been so easy to fall into given the nature of the topic of death which pervades the episode. I'm still not wild about the idea of the Brigadier's corpse being cyberised to be honest, but I accept that it was done with good intentions and out of respect for the character and for beloved actor Nicholas Courtney, and to give both of them the proper heroic send-off and final salute that they deserved.

John: Have a love/hate relationship with the this episode. Like yourself, I have reservations regarding the Brigadier scene. It left me wishing the late Nicholas Courtney had lived to have screen time with Capaldi. However, Clara's understated farewell was deeply affecting. Less is more and Coleman and Capaldi looked genuinely tearful. Haven't cried as much, during an episode, since Matt Smith's farewell last Christmas.

Andrew: It was probably the best 'farewell' Moffat's written in his time as showrunner: you'll recall that I have major issues with "The Angels Take Manhattan" that wrote out Amy and Rory, and similarly didn't think much of "The Time of the Doctor" which saw Smith bow out. But right now I'm preoccupied with the question of whether this is really the end of Clara or not given that she returns in the Christmas special, so I guess we really need to see how that plays out before we can properly appraise the ending of this episode.

John: Hmm, may be one to revisit in the New Year.

Summing up

John: One of the strongest and most cohesive series to date, and a masterclass in characterisation. This series, more than any proceeding it since 2005, deconstructs the Doctor as hero in the wake of regeneration as traumatic experience, while Jenna Coleman has carried the series with aplomb acting as the audience and trying to make sense of an alien Doctor. No longer constrained by the confusing 'Impossible Girl' mantel, Clara Oswald has earned her place as one of my favourite companions and evokes Sarah Jane Smith.

Andrew: It seems we're very much broadly in agreement, which is rather a bombshell given that this series has divided fandom like few others. My initial off-the-cuff feeling after the season finale aired was that this had been the best run since David Tennant's last full season in 2008 with Catherine Tate, but I went back and did a slightly more scientific study by awarding marks out of ten for every story since the 2005 reboot and then taking a season average. And guess what? Series 8 did indeed turn out to the the best season since Doctor/Donna! That's not to discount the Matt Smith years by any means - there were some real corkers among them - it's just that this year seemed to be more consistent overall and have fewer missteps, together with a compelling performance from Peter Capaldi as a very different sort of Who from Tennant/Smith.

And I too loved Jenna Coleman this year: she was good even when saddled with that 'Impossible Girl' gubbins that prevented any genuine consistent characterisation, but this year she got good story lines on top of proper character development and Coleman more than made the most of the opportunity. I'm still hoping that she'll stay on board for a time to come even though "Death in Heaven" seemed designed to wrap things up for her.

Postscript: the best & worst of the year

John: My favourite stories (in no particular order) were "Listen", "Into the Dalek", "Kill the Moon", "Flatline", "Deep Breath" and "Time Heist". Good times!

Andrew: Mine would be "Flatline", "Listen" and "Into the Dalek". Honourable distinctions also to "Deep Breath", "Time Heist", "Mummy on the Orient Express" and "Dark Water". As for my least favourite stories, I'm afraid those are much easier to single out: "Robot of Sherwood" and "In The Forest Of The Night" as you probably could already tell.

May we take this opportunity to wish all our readers a fantastic holiday season, whatever you may be doing, and see you in the New Year.

Doctor Who Series 8 (which includes audio commentaries and the full series of Doctor Who Extra behind the scenes featurettes) was released on DVD and Blu-ray on November 24 2014; series opener “Deep Breath” was already available as a standalone release with different extras. The 2014 Christmas Special "Last Christmas" airs on BBC One at 6.15pm on Christmas Day (December 25) and will be released on DVD and Blu-ray on January 26, 2015.

Thursday 18 December 2014

Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens a year from today

Couldn't let this pass by without acknowledgement. Star Wars: The Force Awakens premieres December 18th, 2015. That's one year from today.

I'll be covering much more Star Wars news in the New Year.

How excited are you for Star Wars: The Force Awakens? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday 16 December 2014

Yoda and Frank Oz return in Star Wars Rebels

Frank Oz is reprising his beloved role as Yoda in an upcoming episode of Star Wars Rebels, reveals TV Guide.

In Path of the Jedi, Yoda's disembodied voice will be heard offering counsel to fledgling Jedi Knight Kanan and his new padawan, Ezra, on the remote planet of Lothal.

“I felt personally to keep Yoda as this disembodied thing it would confuse the audience less,” says executive producer Dave Filoni, who also directed the episode. “I didn't want you to think Yoda could be teleporting from planet to planet. What’s great about Frank, by keeping the voice very present and active, you do feel that it’s a watchfulness and that he’s speaking to you from afar. And I didn’t want anyone to think that he had left Dagobah. It was on the outer rim of what we do, but I think we were able to pull it off.”

Path of the Jedi airs Monday, January 5 on Disney XD.

Excited for Yoda's return? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 11 December 2014

Star Wars: The Force Awakens characters revealed

Director JJ Abrams opens his mystery box, exclusively in Entertainment Weekly, and names the characters, revealed in the first teaser for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, with a retro Topps twist!

“I'm only sorry we couldn't give everyone a stick of gum,” Abrams said.

• #11 — BB-8 on the move
• #53 — Poe Dameron in his X-Wing
• #67 — Kylo Ren ignites his Lightsaber
• #74 — Rey on her Speeder
• #76 — Finn on the run
• #81 — Stormtroopers prepare for battle
• #88 — X-Wings in formation
• #96 — The Millennium Falcon

Did you collect Topps trading cards back in the day? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday 9 December 2014

Microsoft to publish Rise of the Tomb Raider

Microsoft has announced it is publishing Rise of the Tomb Raider for Xbox One and Xbox 360 in late 2015.

The Redmond-based company's head of global product marketing Aaron Greenberg revealed the news on Twitter.

"Yes we are publishing Rise of the Tomb Raider," Greenberg wrote in response to a question about publication.

Square Enix expanded upon this.

"Microsoft will be publishing Rise of the Tomb Raider on Xbox," the company said. "Microsoft has always seen huge potential in Tomb Raider and they will get behind this game with more support across development, marketing and retail than ever before, which we believe will be a step in continuing to build the Tomb Raider franchise as one of the biggest in gaming."

This follows last weekend's reveal, during the PlayStation Experience, that Street Fighter V is a PS4 and PC exclusive. A pet hate of mine; third-party exclusives can be divisive amongst fans and fuel bitter rivalries. As an owner of PS4 and Xbox One consoles, I have the luxury of deciding which platform to purchase for, but many gamers don't.

Will you buy an Xbox One to play Rise of the Tomb Raider? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday 7 December 2014

Marvel's Star Wars #1 could be one in a million!

According to, Marvel is expected to sell 1 million copies of Star Wars #1 when it goes on sale in January 2015.

The new comic series, which marks Marvel's return to a galaxy far, far away, is set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. This echoes the fabled daily Star Wars comic strip, by Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson, republished in the 1990s by Dark Horse Comics. Marvel Star Wars is written by Jason Aaron, with artwork by John Cassaday.

“Every story is about the characters, and we'll focus on all the old favorites,” writer Jason Aaron tells “There will be big moments for everyone, from Han to R2-D2. But a major part of the narrative will be driven by Luke Skywalker and his journey of discovery, a journey that will decide the fate of the entire galaxy.”

Marvel's original Star Wars comic series was the first I regularly followed and looked forward to an annual at Christmas: inspiring play with new action figures and accessories. So, I won't be hesitating to download a digital copy on day-one, unless a kind reader can ship me a hard copy (there are no longer speciality stores near where I live).

Excited for Marvel Star Wars #1? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday 6 December 2014

Limited edition PS4 marks 20 years of PlayStation

Today Sony will announce pre-order details for its limited edition 20th anniversary PS4 during the company's keynote at the PlayStation Experience.

The console, in original gray to commemorate the brand that obliterated the Nintendo and SEGA duopoly, is limited to 12300 units. Most fans (including myself) will have to settle for the free classic PlayStation theme, which is downloadable from PSN. Pro-tip: disable Key Tone (found under Settings) to keep it old school.

The 20th anniversary PS4 will be available to pre-order from the Sony Store worldwide.

Will you be pre-ordering one? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 4 December 2014

James Bond returns in Spectre

Director Sam Mendes (Skyfall) will reprise directorial chores for the upcoming James Bond movie. Spectre.

Spectre - Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion - was the bane of Bond's life in the 1960s and this may mark the return of nemesis Blofeld.

"I've wanted to involve Spectre for many years and Spectre is back," Bond producer Barbara Broccoli said at Thursday's launch event.

Mendes reunites with Daniel Craig, playing the titular character for the fourth time, and adds new cast members including Andrew Scott (Sherlock) and Monica Bellucci (The Matrix Reloaded).

Spectre is scheduled to be released on November 6th, 2015.

Wednesday 3 December 2014

AMC spoils The Walking Dead and ignites fan fury

AMC's Facebook page whipped up a frenzy of anger from fans when it posted a major spoiler for the mid-season finale for The Walking Dead S5 before the episode was aired around the world. The company has subsequently apologised.

Again, this highlights the subject of spoilers and it's worth pointing readers to a series of blog posts, co-written with Andrew Lewin, in which we discuss Doctor Who and Game of Thrones amongst others.

I'm not going to spoil the mid-season finale for fans who've yet to see it. However, this series, despite the occasional creative misstep, has been audacious. February seems so far away...

Tuesday 2 December 2014

PlayStation celebrates its 20th anniversary

What began life as an aborted Nintendo SNES CD-ROM add-on celebrates the twentieth anniversary of its launch in Japan this month.

Many happy returns of the day, PlayStation!

Sony's first foray into home consoles, the brainchild of Ken Kutaragi, was released at a time when I'd given up gaming (my undergraduate grant only went so far and I was the proud owner of an Apple Macintosh Performa). My enthusiasm was rekindled within seconds of seeing Ridge Racer's, now iconic, loading screen on a friend's freshly imported PlayStation. Who doesn't savour the visceral joy of blowing up alien spacecraft?

I wouldn't own a PlayStation, myself, until 1996 when I began a love affair with Tomb Raider that endures to this day. I've owned every iteration of PlayStation and the PS4 is, barring multimedia support lagging behind PS3, the best yet.

What's your first memory of PlayStation? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday 28 November 2014

Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser premieres online

Today the first teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens premiered in selected theatres in the US and, as hoped, online for the rest of the world.

Director JJ Abrams distills my childhood in 88-seconds!

Is that the voice of Benedict Cumberbatch or Andy Serkis as a Sith Lord? The new Stormtroopers look awesome and I teared up when the Millenium Falcon soared on screen with TIE Fighters in hot pursuit.

John Williams music, recorded recently by the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO), was an urgent reprise of the Sarlacc pit battle from Return of the Jedi and culminated in a triumphant rendition of the iconic main theme from Star Wars.

Did it stir excitement for the new movie? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Battlestar Galactica: The Definitive Collection

The announcement of an 18-disc Battlestar Galactica: The Definitive Collection Blu-ray disc box set is poignant following the death of series creator Glen A. Larson. His television series were an integral part of my formative years and informed a nascent passion for media production as much as George Lucas and Steven Spielberg.

From renowned writer/producer Glen A. Larson, the creative force behind Knight Rider, The Six Million Dollar Man, and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, comes the groundbreaking TV series that launched one of the most beloved sci-fi franchises in history, available in widescreen and high definition as Battlestar Galactica: The Definitive Collection and Battlestar Galactica: The Remastered Collection. These essential collections for Battlestar Galactica devotees include all 24 explosive episodes of Battlestar Galactica: The Original Series plus the complete 10-episode spin-off series, Galactica 1980.

Newly remastered in 16:9 widescreen presentation for the very first time, Battlestar Galactica: The Remastered Collection features both pioneering series meticulously reformatted to be optimized for the HDTV viewing experience. Battlestar Galactica: The Definitive Collection also includes both series in 4:3 Full Frame as they were originally televised, plus the theatrical version of the premiere episode "Saga of a Star World," presented in 1.85:1 widescreen for the ultimate collector.

This epic adventure, which provided the inspiration for the critically acclaimed 2004 Syfy reimagined series, comes with over 4 hours of bonus features, including over 3 hours of deleted scenes from Battlestar Galactica: The Original Series. These collections also includes featurettes such as "Glen Larson on the Creation of Battlestar Galactica" and "Stu Phillips: Composing the Score" with an inside look at the genesis of this remarkable production, and "Remembering Battlestar Galactica," a 45-minute retrospective documentary featuring cast and crew on the making of this ground-breaking series.

Battlestar Galactica: The Original Series Synopsis: The Twelve Colonies, hopeful for lasting peace following centuries of intense warfare, gather to sign a treaty with their dreaded enemies, the Cylons. But after an act of treachery on the eve of the ceremony, the Cylons launch a devastating surprise attack, destroying the Colonies' home planets and most of their military strength. A lone flagship battlestar, the Galactica, remains to aid the surviving colonists on their epic journey to a new home on a far-off, legendary planet-Earth. The Original Series stars Richard Hatch (The Streets of San Francisco), Dirk Benedict (The A-Team), Lorne Greene (Bonanza), Herbert Jefferson Jr. (Apollo 13), John Colicos (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), Maren Jensen (The Love Boat), Noah Hathaway (The NeverEnding Story), Laurette Spang (Airport 1975), Tony Swartz (Dynasty) and Terry Carter (McCloud).

Galactica 1980 Synopsis: The Complete Series picks up 30 years after the events of Battlestar Galactica, as the original crew finally makes the long-anticipated descent to Earth. With time running out and the Cylons closing in on their trail, Commander Adama and the Galactica team work harder than ever to help Earth create the technology necessary for battle. Galactica 1980 stars Kent McCord (Emergency), Barry Van Dyke (Diagnosis Murder), Robyn Douglass (Breaking Away) and Lorne Greene.

Battlestar Galactica: The Definitive Collection is presented in 1080p with DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and DTS 2.0. Content includes:

Battlestar Galactica: The Original Series (Widescreen and Full Frame)
Galactica 1980: The Complete Series (Widescreen and Full Frame)
Battlestar Galactica - The 125-minute theatrical edit of the premiere episode "Saga of a Star World"
Remembering Battlestar Galactica - a 45-minute retrospective documentary featuring cast and crew on the making of the series
Episode Commentary with Richard Hatch, Dirk Benedict and Herbert Jefferson Jr.
Glen Larson on the Creation of Battlestar Galactica
Stu Phillips: Composing the Score
And More!

Battlestar Galactica: The Remastered Collection is presented in 1080p with DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and DTS 2.0. Content includes:

Battlestar Galactica: The Original Series (Widescreen Only)
Galactica 1980: The Complete Series (Widescreen Only)
Remembering Battlestar Galactica - a 45-minute retrospective documentary featuring cast and crew on the making of the series
Episode Commentary with Richard Hatch, Dirk Benedict and Herbert Jefferson Jr.
Glen Larson on the Creation of Battlestar Galactica
Stu Phillips: Composing the Score
And More!

Both box sets bow on May 12, 2015.

Tuesday 25 November 2014

Doctor Who Christmas Special gets WHAM! title

It wouldn't be Christmas without the Doctor. Last Christmas is the title for the upcoming Doctor Who Christmas Special, which airs this Christmas on BBC One.

Is it a reference to Clara's (Jenna Coleman) much-debated departure from the series? Well, technically it would be Clara's second departure if you count part two of the series 8 finale. A poignant, understated, scene reminiscent of Sarah Jane Smith's farewell in The Hand of Fear.

Doctor Who fans should check back in December when Andrew Lewin and myself join forces to discuss series 8. There will be spoilers...

Monday 24 November 2014

See Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer this weekend

A post Thanksgiving treat for Star Wars fans. This weekend witnesses the release of the first trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens at selected cinemas in the US.

Regal Cinemas has confirmed the following locations:

CA, Irvine - Edwards Irvine Spectrum 22 & IMAX

CA, San Diego - Edwards Mira Mesa Stadium 18 IMAX & RPX

GA, Atlanta - Regal Atlantic Station Stadium 18 IMAX & RPX

IL, Chicago - Regal City North Stadium 14 IMAX & RPX

NY, New York - Regal Union Square Stadium 14

PA, Warrington - Regal Warrington Crossing Stadium 22 & IMAX

TN, Knoxville - Regal Pinnacle Stadium 18 IMAX & RPX

TX, Houston - Edwards Houston Marq'E Stadium 23 IMAX & RPX

WA, Seattle - Regal Thornton Place Stadium 14 & IMAX

Disney has a proven track record for effectively leveraging the social media space and I'd suggest the company premiere's the trailer online as soon as possible. If not, someone else will. Age of Ultron anyone?

Sunday 23 November 2014

The quest to find Game of the Year

Tauriel, an Elf Mage, begins an epic quest...

2014 has, for the most part, been notable for video game re-releases on PS4 and Xbox One!

There were no clear contenders for Game of the Year (GotY) as in previous years, which has included Dishonored, Bioshock Infinite and Tomb Raider. Instead, the media was fixated on the PS4's seemingly insurmountable sales lead on Xbox One and the latter's price drop. Where were the compelling next gen games coming from?

PlayStation exclusive The Last of Us Remastered and GTA V for PS4 and Xbox One could be considered worthy of, permanent, pride of place on a bookshelf in their next gen incarnations. And may garner GotY for a second year running from gaming enthusiasts and critics alike.

Bungie's overblown blockbuster Destiny fell short of the studio's greatest achievements: Halo and Marathon. Offering shallow, but addictive, fun in the form of Fireteams. A week doesn't pass by when I don't play an Heroic Strike mission. Only to see teammates and myself strewn, hapless, across the desolate dunes of Mars.

Delays have lead to an overcrowded November, which includes the annual Call of Duty. However, I may have discovered my GotY: Dragon Age: Inquisition. In short, a compelling blend of Mass Effect meets Skyrim. I invested an hour customising my character, Tauriel (pictured at the start), before embarking on the 100 hour or more quest.

Honourable mention: Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, which meshed Assassin's Creed with stablemate Batman: Arkham.

What say you, fellow gamer?

Monday 17 November 2014

Star Wars Celebration comes to Anaheim in 2015

Force fans save the date. April 16 2015 is when Star Wars Celebration comes to Anaheim, CA. Think of it as Comic-Con for Star Wars.

Given JJ Abrams' Star Wars: The Force Awakens premieres in cinemas December 2015. This is expected to be the biggest Star Wars Celebration yet.

“It’s going to be really interesting, because we are way ahead with ticket sales from where we usually are this far out,” said Mary Franklin, senior events and fan relations lead for Lucasfilm. “I feel safe saying this is going to be the biggest one yet.”

Visit the official site for further details.

Will you be attending Star Wars Celebration? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday 12 November 2014

Christopher Nolan is afraid to direct Star Wars

Director Christopher Nolan (Interstellar) talked to The Daily Beast about his enthusiasm for Star Wars and the upcoming The Force Awakens.

"I'm pretty excited to see what J.J. is going to do with that. I’m excited to see that he’s shooting on film and actually built the Millennium Falcon. As far as whether or not I would have ever done it, the truth is I think I’d be afraid to touch it! He’s boldly going where he went before in Star Trek, and it takes colossal balls. I’m a lot more comfortable trying to do my own thing than carrying the weight and expectation of the entire world—particularly 40-somethings like me who live and die with each new bit of information about Star Wars. But I’m very excited to see what he does."

Nolan may be one of the most divisive directors working in Hollywood. I'm a big fan and would have loved to see his take on the Star Wars saga.

Friday 7 November 2014

The Force Awakens on Twitter

Disney unveiled the official title for Star Wars: Episode VII on Twitter!

The Force Awakens.

No waiting until the first teaser trailer to reveal the hotly-anticipated subtitle. Social media has changed the landscape of marketing and this is a sign of the times in an era of instant gratification.

The title was met with enthusiasm and derision in equal measure. However, it's better than Attack of the Clones and the Star Wars font dwarfs the subtitle. Keeping it old school.

The Force Awakens sans Episode VII evokes the original trilogy and alludes to the possible central threat in the new Star Wars trilogy. A Sith uprising and a desperate search for Luke Skywalker who has been in hiding since Return of the Jedi. This is only fun speculation and fans will have to wait until December 2015 to discover what JJ Abrams and his Bad Robot cohorts have in mind.

What do you think of The Force Awakens? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 6 November 2014

C-3PO actor says Star Wars: Episode VII is the best yet

Filming of Star Wars: Episode VII wrapped last week and Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) took to Twitter to suggest the movie may be the best yet! Eclipsing The Empire Strikes Back no less.

The as yet untitled next installment in the Star Wars saga, currently in post-production, won't be released until December 2015.

Do you think Episode VII will surpass Empire? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday 29 October 2014

Marvel's Agent Carter gets first TV Spot

Following the Marvel Event, which heralded the announcement of 8 movies spanning the next five years, the first TV Spot for Agent Carter has been revealed. Can Peggy Carter hold her own in a television schedule boasting Arrow, Constantine, Gotham and The Flash?

ABC presents its second action packed series from the creative minds at Marvel in “Marvel’s Agent Carter,” inspired by the feature films Marvel’s "Captain America: The First Avenger" and Marvel’s "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," along with the short "Marvel One-Shot: Agent Carter."

Years before Agent Coulson and his S.H.I.E.L.D. team swore to protect those who cannot protect themselves from threats they cannot conceive, there was Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell, Marvel's "Captain America: The First Avenger," Marvel's "Captain America: The Winter Soldier"), who pledged the same oath but lived in a different time when women weren’t recognized as being as smart or as tough as their male counterparts.

But no one should ever underestimate Peggy.

It's 1946 and peace has dealt Peggy a serious blow as she finds herself marginalized when the men return home from fighting abroad. Working for the covert SSR (Strategic Scientific Reserve), Peggy finds herself stuck doing administrative work when she would rather be back out in the field; putting her vast skills into play and taking down the bad guys. But she is also trying to navigate life as a single woman in America, in the wake of losing the love of her life, Steve Rogers – aka Captain America.

When old acquaintance Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper, Marvel's "Captain America: The First Avenger”) finds himself being framed for unleashing his deadliest weapons to anyone willing to pony up the cash, he contacts Peggy - the only person he can trust - to track down those responsible, dispose of the weapons and clear his name. He empowers his butler, Edwin Jarvis (James D'Arcy, “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World”), to be at her beck and call when needed to help assist her as she investigates and tracks down those responsible for releasing these weapons of mass destruction. But Jarvis, who is a creature of habit and sticks to a rigid daily routine, is going to have to make some major life changes if he’s going to be able to keep up with Peggy.

If caught going on these secret missions for Stark, Peggy could be targeted as a traitor and spend the rest of her days in prison – or worse. And as she delves deeper into her investigation, she may find that those she works for are not who they seem, and she might even begin to question whether Stark is as innocent as he claims.

Agent Carter's eight-episode mini-series begins this January on ABC. No news regarding UK transmission dates.

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Disney re-releases classic LucasArts Star Wars games!

Disney is re-releasing classic LucasArts games, including Star Wars tie-ins, in association with GoG!

"We're proud to announce a new partnership with Disney that allows for the DRM-free release of about 30 classic titles from [LucasArts]," the company blog post reads. "Today, to start with a bang, we are releasing a selection of 6 acclaimed titles from Lucas' most famous gaming franchises, so that the Disney/Lucasfilm catalog on is made impressive from day one."

The following DRM-free titles are available to download now:

  • Star Wars: X-Wing Special Edition
  • Star Wars: TIE Fighter Special Edition
  • Sam & Max Hit the Road
  • The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition
  • Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis
  • Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

X-Wing and TIE Fighter passed me by back in the day; primarily because I'm a Mac User and was enthralled by Dark Forces and Rebel Assault II: The Hidden Empire.

Which LucasArts games would you like to see? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday 27 October 2014

Constantine premieres on Prime Instant Video

Here's one for Amazon Prime subscribers. DC Comics' Constantine joins live-action stablemates Arrow, Gotham and The Flash on the small screen.

Constantine stars Matt Ryan in the titular role of John Constantive and is co-produced by David S Goyer, one of the screenwriters behind Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight trilogy.

The first episode is available on Amazon Prime Instant Video now, with future episodes appearing "hours" after their first airing in the States on NBC.

"It’s the one night of the year when audiences around the world are looking for a fright, so we're delighted to be making the UK exclusive first episode of Constantine available to Prime Instant Video customers this Halloween," said Chris Bird, director of content strategy at Amazon Instant Video.

The opening episode Non Est Asylum impressed me and Constantine was added to my Watchlist without hesitation.

Saturday 25 October 2014

Nikita star Lyndsy Fonseca joins Marvel's Agent Carter

Nikita fans rejoice. Lyndsy Fonseca is joining Marvel's Agent Carter as Angie Martinelli, an aspiring actress who befriends Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) in New York.

Jeph Loeb, Marvel's Head of Television, tells, "Marvel's Agent Carter opens up an exciting world of new characters for us. Lyndsy brings a warmth and humanity to Angie, who'll be the friend Peggy needs if she's to survive the dangers that lie ahead."

Marvel's Agent Carter mini-series airs during Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s midseason break on ABC.

Thursday 23 October 2014

Avengers: Age of Ultron teaser trailer is amazing

"Dammit, Hydra" Marvel tweeted following the leak of Age of Ultron's teaser trailer ahead of its world premiere during Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. next Tuesday. So, it's unleashed the trailer online.

It's the Marvel Cinematic Universe amped to the nth degree. James Spader's Ultron is channeling Pinocchio and breaking free of creator Tony Stark with devastating consequences. Phase II will culminate in a bombastic finale to eclipse events witnessed at the end of Phase I.

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Age of Ultron trailer debuts in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

The first trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron, directed by Joss Whedon, premieres during Marvel's Agents on S.H.I.E.L.D. next Tuesday and presumably online thereafter.

Marvel Studios presents Avengers: Age of Ultron, the epic follow-up to the biggest Super Hero movie of all time. When Tony Stark tries to jumpstart a dormant peacekeeping program, things go awry and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, including Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye, are put to the ultimate test as the fate of the planet hangs in the balance. As the villainous Ultron emerges, it is up to the Avengers to stop him from enacting his terrible plans, and soon uneasy alliances and unexpected action pave the way for an epic and unique global adventure.

Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron stars Robert Downey Jr., who returns as Iron Man, along with Chris Evans as Captain America, Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk. Together with Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow and Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, and with the additional support of Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury and Cobie Smulders as Agent Maria Hill, the team must reassemble to defeat James Spader as Ultron, a terrifying technological villain hell-bent on human extinction. Along the way, they confront two mysterious and powerful newcomers, Wanda Maximoff, played by Elizabeth Olsen, and Pietro Maximoff, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and meet an old friend in a new form when Paul Bettany becomes Vision.

Written and directed by Joss Whedon and produced by Kevin Feige, Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron is based on the ever-popular Marvel comic book series “The Avengers,” first published in 1963. Get set for an action-packed thrill ride when The Avengers return in Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron on May 1, 2015.

Monday 20 October 2014

The Flash premieres on Sky1 this October

If Arrow, Gotham and Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. aren't enough to satiate your fervor for live-action crime-fighting on the small screen. Arrow's spectacular spin-off The Flash enters the fray on Sky1 on Tuesday October 28th.

After a particle accelerator causes a freak storm, CSI Investigator Barry Allen is struck by lightning and falls into a coma. Months later he awakens with the power of super speed, granting him the ability to move through Central City like an unseen guardian angel. Though initially excited by his newfound powers, Barry is shocked to discover he is not the only "meta-human" who was created in the wake of the accelerator explosion -- and not everyone is using their new powers for good. Barry partners with S.T.A.R. Labs and dedicates his life to protect the innocent. For now, only a few close friends and associates know that Barry is literally the fastest man alive, but it won't be long before the world learns what Barry Allen has become... The Flash.

Arrow Series 3 premieres the same week as The Flash on Thursday, October 30th.

Wednesday 15 October 2014

Warner Bros. announces 10 DC Comics movies

Warner Bros. delivered a statement of intent during the company's investor conference today.

In the wake of The Dark Knight Trilogy the studio is playing catch up with the groundbreaking Marvel Cinematic Universe. A massive expansion of the DC Comics movie slate has been announced:

“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” directed by Zack Snyder (2016)
“Suicide Squad,” directed by David Ayer (2016)
“Wonder Woman,” starring Gal Gadot (2017)
“Justice League Part One,” directed by Zack Snyder, with Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill and Amy Adams reprising their roles (2017)
“The Flash,” starring Ezra Miller (2018)
“Aquaman,” starring Jason Momoa (2018)
“Shazam” (2019)
“Justice League Part Two,” directed by Zack Snyder (2019)
“Cyborg,” starring Ray Fisher (2020)
“Green Lantern” (2020)

DC Comics' animated series have bested Marvel's since Batman: The Animated Series. It'll be interesting to see whether or not that success translates to the big screen on a scale to rival Marvel's Phase I, II and III.

Are you excited about today's announcement? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday 14 October 2014

Iron Man joins Captain America in Civil War

According to industry paper Variety, who got the exclusive, Robert Downey Jr. will be joining Chris Evans' Captain America as Marvel's Civil War storyline shatters the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Captain America 3.

If The Winter Soldier is anything to go by; the Civil War will send shockwaves throughout the Marvel Universe including Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which was bolstered by events in The Winter Soldier after a stuttering start. Hail Hydra!

The thought of Iron Man vs Captain America is much more compelling than Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and we've yet to see Avengers: Age of Ultron.

It's worth noting Spider-Man had a pivotal role in the original Civil War comic book series, Marvel's rebooting the comic book series in 2015 and Disney is purportedly in negotiations with Sony on closer tie-ins. My spider-sense is tingling.

Do you think Tony Stark will be the main villain? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 9 October 2014

Darth Vader returns in Star Wars Rebels on ABC

James Earl Jones reprises his iconic role as the voice of Darth Vader in an alternate version of Star Wars Rebels: Spark of Rebellion on ABC this October! Impressive. Most impressive.

Here's the press release:

The critically-acclaimed epic adventure Star Wars Rebels: Spark of Rebellion will air on ABC on Sunday, October 26 (7:00 p.m. ET/PT). Executive Producer Dave Filoni states, "We wanted to do something special for the ABC broadcast. We've added a scene which gives audiences insight into the Inquisitor and includes a cameo by Darth Vader voiced by the distinguished actor James Earl Jones."

The television movie Star Wars Rebels: Spark of Rebellion delivered 6.5-million viewers in its premieres on Disney Channel and Disney XD around the world including the U.S. and 16 markets in Europe, Middle East and Africa and Canada. The Star Wars Rebels weekly series on Disney XD (Mondays 9:00 p.m. ET/PT), has been renewed for a second season.

Set between the events of Star Wars Episodes III and IV, the Star Wars Rebels story unfolds during a dark time when the evil Galactic Empire is tightening its grip of power on the galaxy. Imperial forces have occupied a remote planet and are ruining the lives of its people. The motley but clever crew of the starship Ghost – cowboy Jedi Kanan, ace pilot Hera, street-smart teenager Ezra, the "muscle" Zeb, warrior firebrand Sabine, and grumpy old astromech droid Chopper – will face threatening new villains, embark on thrilling adventures and become heroes with the power to ignite a rebellion.

The voice cast includes Freddie Prinze Jr. as Kanan, Vanessa Marshall as Hera, Steve Blum as Zeb, Tiya Sircar as Sabine, Taylor Gray as Ezra, David Oyelowo as Agent Kallus and Jason Isaacs as the Inquisitor.

Star Wars Rebels is created by Dave Filoni (Star Wars: The Clone Wars), Simon Kinberg (X-Men: Days of Future Past, Sherlock Holmes), and Carrie Beck. The Lucasfilm Animation production is also executive-produced by Filoni and Kinberg as well as Greg Weisman (Gargoyles).

Tuesday 7 October 2014

The Walking Dead renewed for sixth season

The Walking Dead has been renewed for a sixth season ahead of the fifth season premiere this Sunday on Fox. The episode will be shown the following day in the UK. There's no news on whether or not there'll be a simulcast as with 24: Live Another Day and Game of Thrones, which is a missed opportunity.

“We could not be more excited for October 12th as we share new episodes of ‘The Walking Dead’ with fans around the globe,” said AMC President Charlie Collier. “In advance of Sunday’s season five premiere, AMC proudly confirms a sixth season order of this extraordinary series. Thank you to Robert Kirkman, Scott Gimple, the terrific executive producers, and the entire team who brings this compelling world and these rich characters to life. There’s plenty more Dead ahead thanks to their impressive, collective effort.”

A spin-off to The Walking Dead is currently in production and will be set in another part of the world. The pilot is penned by Robert Kirkman and Dave Erickson.

The Walking Dead S1-4 box sets are available to binge-view on NOW TV as part of the Entertainment Month Pass for just £4.99 a month until 16th October, £6.99 a month thereafter. No contract.

Monday 6 October 2014

Star Wars Rebels: Spark of Rebellion

Spark of Rebellion ignites Star Wars Rebels on Disney XD and John Rivers discovers if the force is still strong...

Guest post by John Rivers

Pay attention, rebel scum, this review contains spoilers. If you don’t want to know what happens in the pilot episode of Lucasfilm and Disney’s new joint venture ‘Star Wars Rebels’ then I suggest you close your blast shield and move along. If, however you've seen the episode then this is the review you’re looking for.

The Disney alliance with Lucasfilm has spawned its first franchise. ‘Star Wars Rebels’ is a new animated series from the creative team behind ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’. Set between ‘Revenge Of The Sith’ and ‘A New Hope’, the show concentrates on a fledgling Rebel cell, half acting as a resistance to the Empire, half as mercenaries.

It begins on a backwater planet called Lothal when a young street rat named Ezra (voiced by Taylor Gray, looks borrowed from Disney’s ‘Aladdin’) interrupts an attempt by Kanan (Freddie Prinze Jr.) to hijack a shipment of Imperial blasters. Kanan’s backed up by his team: Zeb, the group’s tank, a lumbering Lasat warrior; Sabine, a lithe Mandalorian with a penchant for explosives (looking like a Knight Sabre from ‘Bubblegum Crisis’); Hera, the group’s Twi’lek pilot and Chopper, an Astromech droid who basically acts like R2D2’s grumpier younger brother.

The action picks up quickly, the hijack attempt turns into a speeder bike chase that naturally echoes ‘Return Of The Jedi’, except this time taking place on the busy streets of Lothal’s capital city. Ezra manages to escape the Imperial troops and is rescued by Kanan who is startled to see him perform a super-human jump. It is clear the Force is strong with him.

As Ezra is introduced to the group, we also meet one of the Empire’s chief Rebel hunters, Inspector Kallus of the Imperial Security Bureau. Voiced with authoritative menace by ‘[Spooks]‘ actor David Oyelowo, Kallus has been charged with finding Rebels and eradicating them. Using false information, he lures Kanan’s team and their ship, the Ghost, into a trap and Ezra is forced to work alongside the rest of the team.

‘Star Wars Rebels’ is certainly closer in tone and look to the original trilogy rather than the prequels. With Disney maintaining a weather-eye over production away from the ever-tinkering perfectionist George Lucas, the animation style seems to have been a little simplified, but not overly so. The angular look of ‘The Clone Wars’ series, chosen to reflect the puppet series of Gerry Anderson, has been retained, if softened. Stormtroopers, TIE Fighters and Star Destroyers are all present. The Ghost, Kanan’s ship, looks rather snub by comparison and its capabilities are only really hinted at. Only a young-looking hologram of Obi-Wan Kenobi once again voiced by ‘The Clone Wars’ James Arnold Taylor links the new series to the prequel trilogy and TV series. The music borrows heavily from the Original Trilogy, too.

Once again, David Filoni and his team have successfully found a balance between appealing to children and providing an action-packed show. Kanan’s introduction, sliding from a speeder bike and shooting a Stormtrooper in the face demonstrates that the show isn’t willing to pull its punches for the Disney XD audience. The appearance of the Inquisitor, at the show’s conclusion, gives chills. It’s clear that he is not simply interested in Rebels but is instead looking for Jedi that may have escaped Order 66. He is voiced by Lucius Malfoy himself voiced by Jason Isaacs.

‘Spark Of Rebellion’ is therefore a highly enjoyable new entry into the ‘Star Wars’ universe. It introduces new characters well and, if the promises are to be believed, should deliver on a few unexplored areas of the saga. For example, what happened to the Clone Troopers, the missing Jedi and how did the Rebel Alliance begin? I’ll freely admit, when Kanan and Ezra are pinned down by Stormtrooper fire and Kanan reaches for his lightsabre and says, ‘Kid, I’m about to let everyone in on the secret’, the hairs on the back of the neck of this old ‘Star Wars’ fan stood up. While ‘The Clone Wars’ was a non-linear show consisting of three or four part stories, utilising a vast array of characters, it will be interesting to see how ‘Rebels’ focuses on a much smaller cast, but retains the depth of storytelling. I’m making sure I access the Holonet for episode 2, the week after next.

‘Star Wars Rebels’ is currently airing in the UK on Disney XD.

© John Rivers 2014

This review originally appeared on SF crowsnest.

Friday 3 October 2014

Prop Store Star Wars live auction at Vue Westfield

Prop Store is proud to announce its first live auction event produced in partnership with Vue Entertainment. In the most exciting sale of its kind, over 375 original film and television props and costumes will go under the hammer on October 16th Vue’s flagship cinema in Westfield, London. The public will be able to get up close and personal with some of the most valuable and iconic pieces on offer throughout a free two week exhibition at Vue Westfield from 1st October.

Here's an example of what Star Wars fans can expect to see and bid for.

330. Biker Scout Helmet - STAR WARS: RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983)
£8000 - 10000
For further information click here.

In the summer of 2013 I won a Pyramid Chamber Ampule (Prometheus) prop prize from NOW TV and can attest to the quality of Prop Store movie collectibles.

Thursday 2 October 2014

Star Wars Rebels renewed

Disney has, unsurprisingly, announced its renewing Star Wars Rebels ahead of the new series' premiere tomorrow on Disney Channel.

“The global expectations for this series could not have been any higher,” said Gary Marsh, president and chief creative officer of Disney Channels Worldwide. “And I am proud to say that the team at Lucasfilm has delivered something that has surpassed even that incredibly high bar – artistically and thematically.”

Early reviews are encouraging for the follow up to The Clone Wars. Much has been made of its alleged 'childish' art style. However, the creative team have alluded to a darker direction.

“Our fantastic creative team is dreaming up new stories for the crew of the Ghost that will expand their experience of the galaxy and deepen their heroes’ journeys,” said Kiri Hart, vice president of creative development for Lucasfilm. “The fan response to the show has been amazing, humbling and inspiring. We’re looking forward to the adventure ahead.”

Will you be watching the premiere? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday 30 September 2014

David Fincher discussed directing Star Wars

A plethora of A-list Hollywood directors were linked with Star Wars: Episode VII before JJ Abrams took the helm, and he turned the gig down first time around.

Auteurist David Fincher (Gone Girl) talked exclusively to Total Film about Lucasfilm approaching him to direct Episode VII:

"I talked to Kathy about it, but I think that it’s a different thing from… I don’t know what Disney-Lucasfilm will be like. It’s tricky. My favorite is The Empire Strikes Back. If I said, ‘I want to do something more like that,’ then I’m sure the people paying for it would be like, ‘No! You can’t do that! We want it like the other one with all the creatures!’ I always thought of Star Wars as the story of two slaves [C-3PO and R2-D2] who go from owner to owner, witnessing their masters’ folly, the ultimate folly of man… I thought it was an interesting idea in the first two, but it’s kind of gone by Return Of The Jedi."

Whilst Fincher may not be directing Episode VII, there's no reason to conclude he may never be attached to a spin-off movie at Disney. Plus he got his career break working as an assistant cameraman on Return of the Jedi.

Do you wish David Fincher had directed Star Wars? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday 29 September 2014

Star Wars Rebels coming to your galaxy this Friday

Star Wars Rebels movie Sparks of the Rebellion premieres around the world this Friday on the Disney Channel. The new series starts the following week exclusively on Disney XD.

Checkout this extended trailer featuring a cameo from a classic Star Wars character.

Does Rebels live up to its critically-acclaimed predecessor The Clone Wars and the original trilogy? The Bearded Trio's Rob Wainfur has posted a spoiler-free review.

Friday 26 September 2014

Chrome Stormtroopers in Star Wars: Episode VII

No, you're not looking at a Cylon Centurion from Battlestar Galactica, but a chrome Stormtrooper from JJ Abrams' upcoming Star Wars: Episode VII. That's according to the latest rumour percolating around the internet.

“A couple sources have expressed that the chrome troopers are a private security force for Adam Driver’s character – silver mercenary rent-a-cops rather than true Imperial Forces for Adam Driver’s character,” Indie Revolver speculates. “While we’ve not heard this from anyone directly, the most abundant rumor about Driver is that he’s a wealthy aristocrat with an interest in Sith artifacts.”

In further Stormtrooper-related news. Actor Oscar Isaac talked to Entertainment Weekly.

"There’s a lot of enthusiasm and it’s being done with a lot of heart," Isaac promised. "There’s nothing cynical about the way we're doing this. Even in the way [Abrams is] shooting it—he’s shooting on film and actually building the sets, so you've got hundreds of Stormtroopers or whatever, and hundreds of extras and all the ships. You actually see it. It’s all real. Everyone can interact with the world.

"I'm constantly looking for a cheesy line to say to harken back to the old ones. No, what they're trying to do and what’s really great is J.J.’s been loosening it up a little bit and trying to make it alive and energized. It’s not formal. They're messy, energized people. We've all intentionally tried to do that. Just make it a little more fiery and messy."

Do you think chrome Stormtroopers are cool? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 25 September 2014

Hot Toys' Han Solo and Chewbacca action figures

Hot Toys, acclaimed for its detailed sixth scale collectible action figures including Batman, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Avengers, and more, kicks off its new Star Wars collection with Han Solo and co-pilot Chewbacca from Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope.

The movie-accurate Han Solo collectible figure is specially crafted based on the image of Harrison Ford as Han Solo in the film and features a newly developed body, highly detailed costume, weapons, accessories, and a specially designed figure stand. The movie-accurate Chewbacca collectible figure is specially crafted based on the image of Chewbacca in the film and features a newly developed body, brown fabric hair throughout the whole body that captures Chewbacca’s unique appearance, highly detailed bowcaster and accessory, and a specially designed figure stand.

This collectible figure set will include an additional Stormtrooper belt and blaster rifle for Han Solo and an additional heavy blaster for Chewbacca.

Star Wars fans shouldn't pass up the opportunity to add this beloved duo to your collection! You can pre-order (affiliate link) today.

Have Hot Toys captured a good likeness of Han Solo and Chewbacca? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday 24 September 2014

NOW TV adds movies and entertainment on Apple TV

NOW TV's app for Apple TV has been updated with Sky Movies Month Pass and Entertainment Month Pass. Both were conspicuous by their absence when NOW TV launched on Apple's streaming device with only Sky Sports Day Pass last year.

The Sky company recently announced support for Google Chromecast. So, this is most welcome.

"Great news for Apple TV users today as we bring our range of NOW TV passes to the service," said Gidon Katz, director of the service.

“There’s never been a better time to get stuck into gripping box sets like The Walking Dead or The West Wing, right from the very first episode, plus get unlimited access to hundreds of the latest award-winning movies like American Hustle – straight to your main TV screen.”

Rekindled my enthusiasm for The Walking Dead by binge-viewing S1-3 box sets on NOW TV! This post-apocalyptic soap noir with zombies continues to present some of the most stunning cinematography on television (or the big screen for that matter), and I'm in for the long haul. S4 is available to stream from 1st October.

The Sky Movies Month Pass and The Entertainment Month Pass are increasing to £9.99 and £6.99 respectively from 16th October. The price increase was delayed earlier in the year.

Subscribers can enjoy watching The Ryder Cup 2014 in Gleneagles exclusively on Sky Sports 4 this week.

New customers get 10% off the Sky Sports Day Pass. Offer ends 9th November.

Are you subscribing to NOW TV? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday 23 September 2014

William Shatner to reprise Captain Kirk in Star Trek 3

BadAssDigest has learnt Roberto Orci's script for Star Trek 3 contains a scene reuniting William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy from the original series.

"I have learned that the script for Star Trek 3 includes a scene that reteams Shatner and Nimoy onscreen as Kirk and Spock for the first time in canon since 1991's Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. It would be a pretty huge moment for fans of the franchise, and likely the last time we'll ever see Shatner as James T. Kirk in official continuity..."

Leonard Nimoy has been integral to the Star Trek reboot since JJ Abrams took the helm of the cinematic franchise. Would you like to see Nimoy joined onscreen by William Shatner? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday 19 September 2014

Nick Frost guest stars in Doctor Who Christmas Special

The BBC's official Doctor Who Twitter account teased the guest stars appearing in the upcoming Christmas Special.

Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman will be joined by Nathan McMullen, Nick Frost (Hot Fuzz) and Michael Troughton, who is the son of Doctor Who star Patrick Troughton.

Nick comments: “I'm so thrilled to have been asked to guest in the Doctor Who Christmas Special, I'm such a fan of the show. The read-through was very difficult for me; I wanted to keep stuffing my fingers into my ears and scream 'No spoilers!' Every day on set I’ve had to silence my internal fan-boy squeals!"

Nick Frost's creative collaborator Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead) is no stranger to adventures in time and space. Pegg appeared in S1 episode The Long Game.

Steven Moffat, lead writer and executive producer, says: “Frost at Christmas - it just makes sense! I worked with Nick on the Tintin movie many years ago and it's a real pleasure to lure him back to television for a ride on the TARDIS.”

Are you excited for the Christmas Special? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 18 September 2014

Millennium Falcon reveal and DC Comics Easter Egg

Directors Zack Snyder and JJ Abrams continue their Superman vs Batman: Dawn of Justice and Star Wars: Episode VII crossover fun with this reveal of the Millenium Falcon and a Bat stowaway.

Do you think Marvel should get in on the act too? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday 17 September 2014

C-3PO and R2-D2 in Star Wars Rebels

Entertainment Weekly recently interviewed Anthony Daniels and the veteran Star Wars actor talked about Episode VII and Rebels.

"I will tell you that when [director] J.J. Abrams rang me to ask about filming Episode VII, one of the first things he said after he told me how wonderful I was — and that didn’t take long — but he then said, “Would you be interested in being in the film just doing the voice?” I said, “No,” and he said, “Right!” He knew I’d say that. There’s no way I would just do the voice. I also said that it can’t be the same suit. I will tell you that the team then got together and built a new suit. They made an entirely new look-a-like with changes that you will never notice [on screen] that made my life a lot easier. I can get it on and off very quickly. [During the prequels], the only time [Threepio has] been CG was when it was very dangerous [to act in the scene in a suit] — and it wasn’t very good. In fact, I’m going to say it was awful. One of the difficulties is with a character that you know and love so well is that, as a member of the audience, you go, “Oh no, that’s not right. No, he doesn’t move like that.” With me [in the suit], he’s always going to move the same way and have the same reactions, timing, and so on. With CG, you’re working with some brilliant person on the keyboard who is trying to pretend to be me. The only time that has worked without doubt is Disney’s Star Tours: The Adventures Continue [theme park ride]. There’s an element in the pre-show which is digital and I cannot tell it’s not me. It’s brilliantly done by Disney. In a cartoon series like Rebels, you accept it because it’s not trying to pretend to be reality. It’s an extension, it’s an exaggeration. On that basis, it’s utterly acceptable — providing the characterization is correct."

Daniels' candour is refreshing and his enthusiasm for both Episode VII and Rebels is infectious.

"It’s very elusive and I’ll tell you: It’s where we’re going now with Episode VII. We’re all back. And it’s great, actually, that Rebels is set before Episode IV because that film is quintessential basic, “This is Star Wars.” And you know George always used to say every time I arrived on set, I would always arrive for the first time back on set in costume, and during the prequels George would say when I arrived on set that “Star Wars has arrived” — because I was the old fashioned link. Rebels is is an old fashion link to the old fashion film, which which we all loved. And you will love Episode VII — I have electrodes strapped to my head to zap me if I say anything more about it."

Read the in-depth interview on EW.

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Sesame Street's Star Wars parody stars Chewie cookie!

Sesame Street and The Muppets occupy a poignant place in my formative years! So, I couldn't pass up seeing some of my most beloved childhood heroes in a galaxy, a milky way galaxy far, far away...

Star S'Mores is a peach of a parody and follows unlikely heroes as Cookie Monster tries to learn self-control and rescue the Princess from the evil Empire.

Hearing Frank Oz's Groda, a mashup of Gonzo and Yoda, is a highlight. What fun!

Use the Four.

Monday 15 September 2014

Obi-Wan Kenobi Star Wars spin-off movie in the works?

Making Star Wars reports Obi-Wan Kenobi may be the next Star Wars character to receive his own spin-off movie at Disney.

"I’ve heard from quite a few people now that an Obi-Wan Kenobi movie is in the works..."

Lucasfilm has already confirmed Gareth Edwards and Josh Trank are directing two spin-off movies. So, whilst this is a rumour, the Mouse House has made a statement of intent with regards to standalone Star Wars movies in addition to the new trilogy, which begins with Episode VII in December 2015.

Which Star Wars character would you like to see in a spin-off movie? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday 12 September 2014

JJ Abrams' Apple Watch tweet hints at Star Wars

Director JJ Abrams has a passion for intrigue and unseen mystery. This is self-evident in his Bad Robot tweet pertaining to Apple's Watch announcement this week.

The background design will be familiar to Star Wars fans. It's Imperial in origin and seen aboard the Death Stars and Star Destroyers of the original trilogy.

I'd suggest it's most likely foreshadowing the resurgence of the Empire following its defeat at the Battle of Endor in Return of the Jedi. However, some fans speculate there's a new Death Star in Episode VII.

Do you think there'll be a Death Star III? Let me know in the comments below.